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Revolution #137, July 27, 2008
Chicago Police Shoot 12, Kill 6, in 4 Weeks
Between June 11 and July 5 of this year, Chicago police shot twelve people, all Black and Latino. Six were wounded and survived. Six were killed.
The victims were young and old, a mother, fathers, and children. They were students aspiring to go to college, and workers. They were people with friends, families, and dreams. They included Shapell Terrell, a 39-year-old sanitation truck driver raising seven children; police fired 14 bullets into his back, killing him on the spot. That very same evening, Chicago police killed 49-year-old Darius Nicholson; his wife told TV news, “They came on a domestic [disturbance call], we ended up with a death.” Robin Johnson suffered from mental health problems and epilepsy; she was shot. The list goes on.
The very randomness of the police shooting spree in Chicago reveals much about what this is all about. A young high school student…a sanitation worker…a mother with a history of mental illness. The message is that anyone could be next—especially any African-American or Latino young man. The rash of police shootings in Chicago this summer is part of a reign of terror that means that millions of people in this country wake up every morning knowing that they could be shot for any reason. Or no reason at all. The police stories are suspiciously similar—“a gun was found.” Police acted as judge, jury, and executioner.
What has been the response? A public outcry? Indignant editorials in the city’s media? Calls for investigations? No, no, and no. There has been near silence in response to this wave of police shootings.
Over the past months, there has been a frenzied blizzard of news about crime, and a great deal of paralyzing confusion has been spread among different sections of people...from those who are most directly under the gun to people in all walks of life. We must clearly state the real situation: there is NO justification for the police going on a rampage against Black and Latino people, NO MATTER WHAT THE EXCUSES THEY PUMP OUT THERE. In this article, we will zoom out with the camera, and show how the police shootings and murders, and the problem they are claiming to solve—youth violence directed at other youth—come from the same place. More police flooding the communities, jacking up youth, and shooting people is not the solution.
But before we do that, let’s focus in on the intolerable reality of what has been going on.
A Reality Check
Seventeen-year-old Jonathan Pinkerton lies in a hospital bed, paralyzed by a bullet fired by the Chicago police. Jonathan was planning to tour colleges this summer, between his junior and senior years at Corliss High School. On June 11 graduation and the prom were over and he was passing a warm summer evening with his friends at Altgeld Gardens housing project. On that evening, police chased Jonathan, shot him in the back. Then, while he was lying on the ground wounded, one cop knelt on his back while, according to witnesses, another cop kicked him in the head.
Jonathon Pinkerton had no police record. This stands out because in the ghettos and barrios of Chicago, and across the country, many youth are scooped up into the juvenile “justice” system at a very young age. Jonathon’s uncle told Revolution that in the neighborhood where Jonathon was shot, youth are frequently arrested for as little as just being outside. People in the neighborhoods of Chicago told Revolution that police routinely stop and harass young people just for wearing white t-shirts, which are very commonly worn among youth.
Luis Colon apparently did have a gun when he was shot and killed by Chicago police on June 24. He was 18 years old, and yes—already had a criminal record. But neighbors told Revolution that Luis had put his gun down and was attempting to surrender when he was shot and killed by police.
As one young woman from the South Side put it, many youth like Luis find it necessary to carry a weapon as part of the life they have found themselves in, to survive. But they do not carry guns to shoot police. According to residents from Luis’s neighborhood, when Luis was confronted by police, it made no sense that he would try to surrender—as witnesses in the park saw him do—and at the same time still pull a gun on police. Luis “would have known that would be suicide” because police shoot young Black and Latino men with guns—or under any pretext that they can claim indicated the youth had a gun.
“Choices,” and the Workings of the System
People are killing each other in Chicago. One painful example: some 27 Chicago Public School students were killed in violent incidents last year.
Why? Are these things fundamentally the result of “bad choices” made by the youth? Or are they a product of, and determined by, the very nature and workings of this system? To answer that question, we have to pull back the lens, and look at the conditions that put people in these situations. And define what “choices” people have.
Consider three factors shaping the so-called “choices” youth find themselves confined to.
First, how did a million Black people come to end up in Chicago—hundreds of thousands of them in very desperate circumstances? Before and after World War II, millions of Black people migrated to the cities of the north from the rural south; pushed by Jim Crow, vicious poverty, and lynch mob terror, and pulled by word of factory jobs in “The Promised Land.” In Chicago, as elsewhere, the super-exploitation of African-Americans in the most low-paying, dangerous, and tenuous jobs was a great source of super-profits for the capitalists who owned the steel mills, packing houses and factories. Throughout society, Black people were segregated, brutalized and discriminated against in every sphere. Whites got government loans to buy homes in the suburbs; Black people were shunted—by government policy—into high rise housing projects. Today, vast stretches of Chicago have become economic wastelands as the jobs have changed, or moved on in search of fresh blood to exploit even more ruthlessly (see pg. 14, “Chicago’s Economic Disaster Zones”). In short, the masses of Black people who were brought north to work the jobs in heavy industry are now no longer being exploited in the same way. For many (and especially for youth) there are no jobs.
Second, in response to the grinding conditions Black people faced, and in the context of a worldwide revolutionary upheaval as well as other global economic and political factors, a powerful Black Liberation movement arose in the 1960s. Youth who the system had cast off, for whom the system had no future, found something to live for: revolution. The system hated, feared, and lashed out viciously at this revolutionary movement. And the system was able to derail and crush the revolutionary movement that gave real hope and something positive to live and fight for to youth from all walks of life.
Third, where did the huge growth in gangs come from? Gangs arose to fill an economic and ideological vacuum. They arose in circumstances where youth saw no chance for jobs, and where the influence of revolutionaries had been to a great degree wiped out by government repression. Along with this the government both flooded the ghettos with drugs, and passed laws that criminalized whole communities of youth with the “war on drugs,” and the “war on crime.” Tens of thousands of Chicago youth were arrested during the nineties for “loitering,” and many more added to gang databases.
…And Government Policies
The economic decimation of whole zones of Chicago, the stripping of jobs from sections of the city, and the abandonment of these neighborhoods; the attacks on the revolutionary movement of the sixties; and the promotion of gangs were not “bad choices” made by young people coming up on the South or West Side of Chicago today. No, these were and are the conscious “choices” of the imperialists—a “choice” to continue the oppression of Black people in new and in many ways even more grotesque and sadistic forms. The so-called “choices” these youth face are the products of the workings and policies of the capitalist system.
Under these conditions, conditions not of their own making, youth are scrambling to survive—and in desperate competition with each other to do that. They are presented with a world where for them, “crime is a rational choice,” as one bourgeois economist summarized. And with that “choice” comes a set of values, a morality, and a “do or die” mentality that echoes the values and thinking of the big time capitalists. On the street level, this means fighting over turf to run a small time hustle, in competition with others. It means, even beyond those directly involved in the drug trade, being locked into a culture of settling disputes with guns. Even youth who do their best to distance themselves from “the life” have to live in communities where the code of the street sets the terms of things, and where to be caught without a gun can mean death at the hands of someone else desperate like yourself.
Government policies like widespread school closings and reassignments, and the decimation of public housing have intensified the conflicts between people locked into the ghettos. Speaking of the Chicago Public School students who were killed last year, Bill “Doc” Walls, director of Committee for a Better Chicago and former mayoral candidate told Revolution that, “The blood is on Mayor Daley, Police Superintendent Weis and [Superintendent of Schools] Arne Duncan’s hands. There has been a real spike in gang violence, but it’s nowhere near what their sensational claims make it to be. The source for this spike is the closing of the schools, creating a situation where youth have to cross gang lines to go to different schools. The tearing down of the projects has led to the same problem.”
The same system that sends police into communities like an occupying army also works to put people—especially youth—in kill-or-be-killed situations. And when the youth do react in the ways that they have been set up, conditioned, and programmed to react, the very system that did the programming uses that as an excuse to clamp down even more relentlessly. The system is the problem. It, and those who front for it, can never be part of the solution.
Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution
Does all this mean, then, that there is no hope? Or that the only option is to hope against hope that somehow, someway, the system can be relied on to deal with horrors that it has created?
No! There is a way to break through here. But the only hope for this generation, and for the vast majority of people, is to confront the real cause of the problems that are killing people, and to struggle against the system that is responsible for all this suffering and death.
And, then, in the course of, and only in the course of and through fighting the powers that be, with their eyes on the prize of building a revolutionary movement that really does have an answer to all the madness of capitalism, people can and must begin to change themselves. We saw this in society in the 1960s—when very widely in the ghettos and barrios youth got out of all kinds of bullshit, and into something positive—fighting for revolution. We saw sparks of this even short of a revolutionary movement—in the LA Rebellion in ‘92 when people set aside divisions between gangs and nationalities to rebel against the system, and fight for justice. We have seen glimmers of this in how youth and others have come together from different neighborhoods and gangs in Chicago and set aside, at least for a time, turf conflicts to protest police brutality. And this kind of transformation of people’s outlook can take much more powerful expression—and indeed it can truly flower—in the context of a revolutionary movement aimed at emancipating all humanity.
This process is spoken to in a slogan put forward by the Revolutionary Communist Party: “Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.” This is how the youth, and everyone else too, can transform themselves, in the course of and in the context of building a revolutionary movement to uproot the source of all the physical and mental chains that enslave people.
And from that perspective—of building a revolutionary movement—it is critical and urgent to build powerful, mass political struggle against the police rampage in Chicago.
Revolution #137, July 27, 2008
Chicago vividly exemplifies the deepening inequalities and destabilizing conditions that accompany major shifts in the global economy. Chicago was, for decades, the first and often last stop for millions of Black people driven from the cotton fields and lynchings of the South into urban sweatshops. But starting after World War 2, and even more drastically over the last 40 years, those jobs have been moved in search of fresh blood—people who can be even more viciously exploited.
From 1967 to 1990, Chicago’s manufacturing jobs shrank drastically—from 546,500 to 216,190. Manufacturers who have stayed in the Chicago area have tended to automate their plants and restructure, with greatly reduced work forces that often require more sophisticated skills that have been denied to Black and Latino workers.1 These new jobs are often in suburbs far from the sections of Chicago where Black people have been forced to live, inaccessible by public transportation and hostile to Black people who try to move into them. What is left in the inner city is massive unemployment, or minimum-wage service jobs that do not pay enough to survive.
And since 1970, the wage gap between whites, on the one hand, and Blacks and Latinos, on the other, has increased radically. In the Chicago metropolitan area average wages for Blacks for all occupations dropped from 66 percent of the corresponding wages for whites in 1970 to 56 percent in 1990. That is, at the end of the sixties, African-Americans in the Chicago area made about 2/3 of what whites made, and now they make only 56 cents for every dollar whites make. Latinos, on average, earned 64 percent of whites’ wages in 1970 and by 1990 that was down to 50 percent!2 These changes in the economic base of society have rendered hundreds of thousands of young Black and Latino youth in Chicago, as in cities across the country, a pool for the lowest paying jobs, or in many cases “superfluous” to the system, to be pushed to the side or locked up in jail (where the system is working at finding ways to exploit them in near-slavery conditions). At the same time, the past decades have seen massive importation of drugs into the inner cities with at least the knowledge and acquiescence of government agencies like the CIA, and through imperialist-controlled networks that bring in drugs from U.S. occupied Afghanistan or the U.S.’s closest South American ally—the druglord regime in Colombia. At the bottom end of this process, inner city youth, without other options for survival, get caught up in the drug trade.
In these ways, the workings of the capitalist-imperialist system of exploitation backed up around the world (and at home) by the massive police and military might of the United States have put hundreds of thousands of people in Chicago alone in desperate conditions. For many, especially youth, crime is, as one bourgeois economist put it, “a rational choice.”
1. Moberg, D., “Chicago: To be or not to be a global city,” World Policy Journal, (1997), cited in “Chicago: the Global City” by Pauline Lipman, substancenews.com, February 2005. [back]
2. Betancur, J. J., & Gills, D. C., “The restructuring of urban relations,” The collaborative city: Opportunities and struggles for Blacks and Latinos in U.S. cities, (2000), cited in “Chicago: the Global City.”[back]
Revolution #137, July 27, 2008
Chicago Mayor Daley tells people that “we have to end the cycle of violence that... takes our children from us,” and he says that “parents better capture this responsibility.”
OK, let’s talk about responsibility.
Yes, it is terrible—and it is a CRIME OF THIS SYSTEM—that the youth are driven to shoot at and kill each other. It is terrible—and a CRIME OF THIS SYSTEM—that they internalize the message they get every day through the worthless schools and degrading conditions and sneering brutalizing cops—the message that this system has no future for them, and that they don’t even deserve a future—and then act it out, against each other.
But Mayor Daley shouldn’t say a goddamn thing about it. He shouldn’t be allowed to even open his mouth, okay? It is not all that long ago that the youth DID have something better—when the revolution promised them a better future, and gave them something real to fight for. Not all that long ago when a movement arose and directed the anger of the youth where it belonged, against the system. A movement that got the youth out of all that reactionary shit and into fighting the system and trying to make revolution…and in the process of doing all that, changing themselves, too— including how they treated each other.
Responsibility? Let’s talk about what happened, right in Chicago—to take just one example. The Chicago establishment—under the rule of Daley I (the current mayor’s father)—and the FBI joined together to violently stamp out and crush this movement. First they tried to use the gangs, but the gangs told them no, they wouldn’t do it. So the cops launched a raid in the dead of night. These cowardly pigs murdered Fred Hampton, the 22-year-old leader of the Black Panther Party in Chicago. One of their people had drugged him ahead of time, and they stood over him while he slept and pumped his head full of bullets.
Fred Hampton’s blood was all over the hands of Daley I, of the police, of the FBI, and of the DA’s office. But none of the cops who pulled the trigger, none of the authorities who hatched the plan, ever did a minute of time for this crime. That is because they were acting in the interests of the system—against the masses but for the system—the same system that Daley II heads up in Chicago.
The brutal cowardly assassination of Fred Hampton was part of a whole plan to violently crush the revolutionary movement that arose in the ’60s. And it was the demise of that movement—along with the removal of jobs from the inner cities, the drug explosion, and the deeper segregation that was created for a whole section of the Black masses—it was all that and more that created a void which the gangs were allowed (and to a large extent encouraged by the powers) to fill. And yes, with a desperate way of life, with a desperate form of survival, comes desperate acts. But Daley and all the rest of them knew that then, and know that now.
The system doesn’t have a plan to stop the youth killing each other, because they don’t want to stop it. Never did and never will. Their plan is to keep the youth at each other’s throats, and then use the violence these youth get caught up in to bring down still more violence and repression against them. It’s the system that’s responsible for the violence among the people.
But the revolution does have a way and a plan to stop this. And the revolutionary movement coming into being now has a vision and a strategy that could actually go all the way, when conditions come together, and win. It has a real future for the youth. A future that starts with politically fighting back against these authorities, getting into revolutionary ideas, and enabling the people to change themselves as they fight to change their conditions. A future that turns their anger where it needs to be directed, that raises their sights above the dog-eat-dog, and that can lead to the emancipation of humanity.
So fuck these lying and worse-than-hypocritical sermons and phony crocodile tears. And fuck this murderous system. We got something better…revolution.
[For more on the murder of Fred Hampton, see the DVD boxed set of the 1986 PBS miniseries Eyes on the Prize, available for purchase online.]
Revolution #137, July 27, 2008
Twelve Black and Latino people shot by the Chicago Police this summer… and counting. Now they’re talking about plans for a police “surge” where they come in like an occupying army—reminiscent of the slaughter and escalation of force in Iraq—with checkpoints, police district roll calls in the streets, helicopters, SWAT teams in full military gear, and threats to send in the state police.
We refuse to live this way!
This must be stopped through mass political resistance. The new police state measures must be opposed and the brutalizing, murderous police who beat, shoot, and harass us need to be indicted and convicted of their crimes against the people, and put behind bars.
Get in the streets!
We won’t get justice unless we demand it—we must refuse to sit quietly, bowing our heads and allowing this to happen over and over again. Or, worse yet, blaming each other.
The situation we find ourselves in is the fault of the system—it is the capitalist, imperialist system that keeps us locked down and cast out. And this whole setup is maintained by the armed enforcers of the state—the police and prisons here and the US military all over the world.
STOP THE MADNESS OF KILLING EACH OTHER,
AND START FIGHTING THE POWER!
It is madness for us to be killing each other. But the crocodile tears of the authorities about this are bullshit—they’ve created this whole situation, including that they knew full well what would happen with gang violence when they closed down 18 schools this year and demolished the projects. We’ve been pitted against each other to scrape and survive. But taking up the system’s dog-eat-dog outlook and playing into their trap is a fool’s game. They create this situation, step back, watch us kill each other and use that as an excuse to repress us even further.
It is time, and past time, to get up out of this!
There is something worth living and dying for—and it’s not this system or a place within it. We need a revolution, a communist revolution, to get rid of this brutal system once and for all. We need to, and can, bring about a radically different and far better society and world—emancipating all of humanity. In a country like the U.S., this kind of revolution could only occur once this society as a whole is in a profound crisis, and when a revolutionary people, numbering in the millions, has emerged, conscious of the need for revolutionary change and determined to fight for it.
Get with the revolutionary movement now!
Fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution!
Chicago Revolution Club (in formation)
can be contacted through Revolution Books
1103 N. Ashland Chicago, IL 60622
Read and contribute to Revolution Newspaper online at www.revcom.us
Revolution #137, July 27, 2008
On July 14 The New York Times published a major editorial by Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama titled, “My Plan for Iraq,” in which Obama called for “redeploying” U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months. The next day Obama gave a major foreign policy address outlining his “new overarching” global strategy. It laid out how he sees the “challenges of a new and dangerous world,” his criticisms of the Iraq war, his concerns about Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran, and a list of other contradictions the U.S. is facing, including global climate change, nuclear proliferation, and rising energy costs.
Obama’s article and speech come on the eve of his overseas trip, which is designed to demonstrate his credentials as a “credible commander-in-chief,” as one backer put it. And it comes when many who oppose the Iraq war are hoping that Obama represents a real change from Bush and his unending war for greater empire, and that there’s a basis for the people to “hold” Obama “to his good positions,” as columnist Norman Solomon put it.
However, if we take Obama’s words at face value, they reveal no such hope, and no “good” positions. His vision and plans aren’t identical to Bush’s, but they’re imperialist to the core. They aren’t designed to share the planet with the rest of humanity—they’re designed to strengthen and extend U.S. global hegemony. They’re not designed to help solve the crushing horrors threatening the world—they’re designed to strengthen the very system of global capitalism-imperialism that’s the root cause of these horrors. And they aren’t even about ending U.S. wars—just the opposite. "Obamaplan" is to scale back U.S. forces in Iraq (leaving an estimated 50,000 for the indefinite future), while escalating the war in Afghanistan (dispatching another 10,000 troops) and stepping up U.S. military intervention in Pakistan.
And many of Obama’s positions aren’t even that different from current Bush administration policies, which have been evolving in the face of the shifting terrain and contradictions facing the U.S. empire.
Imperialists Debate Grand Strategy in a Changing World
Obama’s criticisms of Bush’s strategy are not unique—they are shared by many in the ruling class. These strategists of empire feel the invasion of Iraq and the neocon strategy of rapid, forcible regional transformation of the Middle East has not gone according to plan and has hurt U.S. interests in the region and globally in important ways. They think the Bush administration has focused too narrowly on Iraq and the Middle East to the detriment of other global concerns, giving other powers openings and more maneuvering room. And they argue that the Bush team has relied too heavily on U.S. military power and not enough on other elements of imperial might—economic leverage, political posturing, and diplomatic efforts.
“This [Iraq] war distracts us from every threat that we face and so many opportunities we could seize,” Obama declared. “This war diminishes our security, our standing in the world, our military, our economy, and the resources that we need to confront the challenges of the 21st century. By any measure, our single-minded and open-ended focus on Iraq is not a sound strategy for keeping America safe.”
On the Lehrer NewsHour (July 15), Obama said, “[W]hat I have said continuously is that in light of the problems that we’re having in Afghanistan, in light of other security threats that we have out there, non‑proliferation issues, Iran, what we’re doing with respect to China, what we’re doing with respect to North Korea, it is important for us not to be single‑minded about Iraq.”
Obama’s concerns reflect the changing global terrain and necessities facing U.S. imperialism—which is why even Bush and McCain would agree with much of what he says—and in some cases these shifts have already been implemented, including escalating the war in Afghanistan and placing more emphasis on diplomacy and political preparation in dealing with the very acute challenges posed by Iran. (For a broader discussion of the changing global terrain, see Raymond Lotta, “Shifts and Faultlines in the World Economy and Great Power Rivalry,” Part 1, Revolution #136, July 20, 2008; Part 2, page 6 this issue).
In short, Obama is coming from a thoroughly imperialist viewpoint—being concerned with the problems confronting not humanity, but the U.S. empire militarily, politically, and economically—and what should be done about them. So it’s not surprising that Obama’s answer is thoroughly imperialist as well—beginning with joining “overwhelming military strength with sound judgment,” while shaping events “not just through military force, but through the force of our ideas; through economic power, intelligence and diplomacy.” Obama proposes expanding the size of the U.S. military by 65,000 ground troops and 27,000 marines. The point? “[A] strategy that saw clearly the world’s dangers, while seizing its promise.” Coming from the would-be commander-in-chief of the world’s biggest empire and exploiter, “seizing” the world’s “promise” is chilling—and sickening.
Iraq: Redeploying Forces to Meet “Broader Strategic Goals”
Obama trades off his 2002 opposition to the Iraq war, and is often branded an “anti-war” candidate. He is no such thing.
Obama has never criticized the invasion of Iraq because it was an illegal, immoral, and unjust war of conquest and empire. And the criticisms he raises come from the thoroughly chauvinist viewpoint of what’s best for America—i.e. the U.S. empire. “I warned that the invasion of a country posing no imminent threat would fan the flames of extremism, and distract us from the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban,” Obama writes. And he argues that the cost has outweighed the benefits for U.S. imperialism: ”Since then, more than 4,000 Americans have died and we have spent nearly $1 trillion. Our military is overstretched. Nearly every threat we face—from Afghanistan to Al Qaeda to Iran—has grown.... The strain on our military has grown, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated and we’ve spent nearly $200 billion more in Iraq than we had budgeted.”
Obama never mentions the horrors the war has inflicted on millions of Iraqis—the one million dead, the five million driven from their homes. Obama is training people in the foul logic that only American lives and power count for anything, while Iraqi lives count for nothing.
Obama argues that continuing the occupation in its current form will further damage U.S. imperial interests and has called for withdrawing U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months. “Ending the war is essential to meeting our broader strategic goals, starting in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the Taliban is resurgent and Al Qaeda has a safe haven. Iraq is not the central front in the war on terrorism, and it never has been.” He then cites Admiral Mike Mullen, Bush’s own Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who argues, “we won’t have sufficient resources to finish the job in Afghanistan until we reduce our commitment to Iraq.”
But Obama is not calling for leaving Iraq or allowing the Iraqi people to determine their own destiny. His plan includes leaving a “residual” force of perhaps 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq to continue the effort to create a stable pro-U.S. state, which is seen as key to strengthening the U.S. grip on the region and transforming it in the interests of U.S. imperialism. And he makes clear that anything he does would be conditioned by the situation on the ground and U.S. interests: “...My plan would not be a precipitous withdrawal...we would inevitably need to make tactical adjustments. As I have often said, I would consult with commanders on the ground and the Iraqi government to ensure that our troops were redeployed safely, and our interests protected.”
In other words, even to the degree Obama and the Democrats have real differences with Bush, they’re not about to do anything that could jeopardize the war—which is why they have approved every bill appropriating billions (over $600 billion and counting) for the war.
This is another example of the fact that real decisions are not made through elections—they’re made by the ruling class based on their interests, not what the people want or what candidates promise in campaigns.
So Obama is right. His position on the Iraq war has been consistent. Consistently proceeding from the reactionary needs and interests of U.S. imperialism.
Iran: “I Will Use All Elements of American Power”
Obama agrees with the broad ruling class consensus that the Islamic Republic of Iran is a huge strategic problem that has to be dealt with one way or the other, while repeating the charges that Iran supports “terror” and is pursuing the development of nuclear weapons. His criticism is that the Bush administration’s approach has strengthened, not weakened, Iran.
“We cannot tolerate nuclear weapons in the hands of nations that support terror. Preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons is a vital national security interest of the United States. No tool of statecraft should be taken off the table, but Senator McCain would continue a failed policy that has seen Iran strengthen its position, advance its nuclear program, and stockpile 150 kilos of low enriched uranium. I will use all elements of American power to pressure the Iranian regime, starting with aggressive, principled and direct diplomacy—diplomacy backed with strong sanctions and without preconditions....the measure of any effort is whether it leads to a change in Iranian behavior.”
Obama’s position on Iran flows from his advocacy of key tenants of imperialist strategy, shared by the whole ruling class: the U.S. must dominate the Middle East, and strengthening the settler-colonial state of Israel (which was founded on the ethnic cleansing of Palestine) as a regional ally and military outpost is essential to doing so. This is why Obama has repeatedly made clear, as he told AIPAC (The American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee), that his “bottom line” is an “unshakeable commitment” to Israel and his determination to “do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” including waging war if need be. Obama’s call for direct diplomacy is in the service of these objectives, including by putting the U.S. in a stronger political and diplomatic position should it decide to go to war. “If we must use military force,” Obama told AIPAC, “we are more likely to succeed, and will have far greater support at home and abroad, if we have exhausted our diplomatic efforts.”
Escalating War in Afghanistan and Pakistan
This so-called “anti-war” candidate wants to escalate in Afghanistan and Pakistan—sending 10,000 more U.S. troops to reinforce the 36,000 already in Afghanistan and threatening unilateral military action inside Pakistan—whether the Pakistani government agrees or not.
“[A]s President, I will make the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban the top priority that it should be. This is a war that we have to win.”
Obama’s concern is that the greatest immediate threat to stability and U.S. hegemony in the Middle East-Central Asian region is the Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This assessment is widely shared by ruling class strategists—of both parties. Bush’s Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been loudly arguing for more air power in Afghanistan, the CIA and Special Forces have already set up secret bases in Pakistan, and the Republican nominee John McCain calls for even more troops—15,000—to be dispatched to Afghanistan.
But what’s the nature of this war that Obama claims the U.S. must win? Is it a just war to liberate the people of Afghanistan? No. The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was driven by reactionary imperialist interests and ideology from the beginning. This war was never about simply capturing Osama bin Laden in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. Its focus was replacing the Taliban regime with one more suitable to U.S. interests, which included defeating Islamic fundamentalism and gaining strategic control of this crossroads of Central Asia, where an intense great power rivalry over the control of oil and natural gas resources and pipelines is taking place. (See “Afghanistan: The Oil Behind the War,” Revolutionary Worker #1125, November 4, 2001.)
During the U.S.’s October 2001 war, thousands of Afghanis were massacred and tortured to overthrow the Taliban regime and put a reactionary collection of warlords more loyal to the U.S. in power, with Hamid Karzai its figurehead leader. Since then, the Taliban has regrouped, and attacks on the Karzai regime and U.S. forces have escalated. Tom Hayden, citing journalist Ahmed Rashid’s new book Descent into Chaos,* writes, “There are some 36,000 U.S. troops stretched across Afghanistan, another 17,500 under NATO command, and 18,000 in counterinsurgency and training roles. They are so aggressively combat-oriented that the Afghan government itself continually objects to the rate of civilian casualties.... Seven hundred civilians were killed in the first five months of 2008 alone, according to the United Nations.
“By 2005, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission cited 800 cases of detainee abuse at some thirty U.S. firebases. ‘The CIA operates its own secret detention centers, which were off limits to the U.S. military.’ Ghost prisoners, known as Persons Under Control are held permanently without any public records of their existence. Warlords operate their own prisons with ‘unprecedented abuse, torture, and death of Taliban prisoners.’ And as the U.S. lowered the number of prisoners at Guantánamo, it increased the number held at Bagram, near Kabul.”
Besides enormous violence, what have seven years of U.S. “liberation” brought the people of Afghanistan? When the U.S. invaded, Afghanistan was 172nd out of 178 nations on the UN’s Human Development Index. Today, little has changed. Afghanistan “has the highest rate of infant mortality in the world, a life expectancy rate of 44-45 years, and the youngest population of any country. In 2005, 95 percent of Kabul’s residents were living without electrical power.… As of 2006, Afghanistan’s economy still rested on producing 90 percent of the world’s opium.” And women remain shackled by repressive Islamic social codes.
This is the war Obama wants to escalate and declares the U.S. must win. How can anyone who supports the liberation of oppressed people support that?
Obama is promising to successfully battle his way through an intense cauldron of contradictions in the Middle East and Central Asia. But who says he’s going to be any more “successful” there than Bush has been—or that U.S. forces will be leaving the region for years? (All this puts his vote for the new FISA law expanding spying in context. Obama, like the other imperialists, knows this “war on terror”—to strengthen the U.S. grip on the Middle East-Central Asia as part of solidifying U.S. global hegemony—will go on for years if not decades. Given that, and the deep faultlines in U.S. society, new repressive measures are demanded. (See “New Wiretapping Law: A Big Leap in Big Brotherization of Society” and “Why Did Obama Support FISA and Telecom Immunity?” Revolution #136, July 20, 2008.)
All this shows why the Obama campaign is not progress—it’s extremely harmful to the people. In short, Obama is using his anti-war credentials to build public support for more U.S. imperialist war! A new face for the same rotten empire.
* “Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan,” Tom Hayden, The Nation, July 15, 2008, citing and quoting from Ahmed Rashid, Descent into Chaos (Viking, 2008) [back]
Revolution #137, July 27, 2008
The Following is From A World To Win News Service
July 14, 2008. A World to Win News Service. Two notable protests against the occupiers and the Afghan authorities were reported in June. The security forces confronted them brutally, leaving at least one dead and dozens injured.
On June 14, according to the BBC Persian service, thousands of residents of the southeastern province of Paktia demonstrated against attacks on civilians by Afghan and foreign forces. Witnesses said that the protests continued for three days. BBC reported that at least 18 members of an extended family had been killed in an air strike. One protester also said that 11 members of another family were killed during a previous air attack in Zarmat district in Paktia province, in central-eastern Afghanistan on the border with Pakistan. The districts of Zarmat and Mateh Khan were targeted for three consecutive nights. The bombardment was so heavy that people had to leave the bodies of their many loved ones untouched for several days.
During the protests, outraged people chanted slogans against the invaders and warned the government and the occupiers that if this situation continues, they will react and then nothing can prevent them from rising up and taking revenge. Although the demonstrations started peacefully, they turned bloody when the police fired on the protesters, killing at least one and wounding 12 more.
One of the worst massacres of civilians came on July 6 in eastern Nangarhar province, after these protests. The U.S-led coalition denied initial reports that it had bombed a wedding party and insisted that all of the dead were “militants.” BBC reporter Alastair Leithead reached the village a week later. According to his report, filed July 14, villagers from one valley were crossing a mountain pass to reach the adjacent valley for a wedding. In three consecutive bombing runs, an American jet hit first a group of children, then a group of women, and then a group of three girls, including the bride, who had escaped the second bombing. Of the approximately 52 people killed, almost all were women and children who were escorting the bride.
It is especially infuriating that American authorities tried to defend their action by claiming that it is a typical Taleban tactic to claim that their troop concentrations hit by U.S. air strikes were really just wedding parties, since a similar incident—marked by similar American lies—took place in nearby Nouristan two days earlier, killing 17 people at a wedding. In fact, American aerial attacks on wedding parties have been a hallmark of the current occupation, just as they were during the Soviet occupation, since the invaders consider any large gathering of Afghans inherently hostile.
According to official sources, out of the 8,000 conflict-related deaths last year, some 1,500 were civilians. However the real number is much higher since U.S. and NATO and Afghan officials routinely count many of the civilian dead as Taleban insurgents or Taleban supporters. The Taleban and their allies have also killed many civilians, not hesitating to use murder themselves from early on and lately killing large numbers of civilians as they have increasingly adopted suicide-bombing tactics, their own version of America’s terrorist and indiscriminate “death from above.”
Protests against the eviction of poor people and the destruction of homes
The occupiers “gifts” to the people of Afghanistan are not limited to war, bombing, missile and artillery attacks and the torture of prisoners. In fact, their air attacks enforce and ensure the misery of the people.
Another protest took place June 12 against the Herat municipal government’s plans to destroy the homes of the displaced and internal refugees living in the “Sheidaee” camp five kilometers from this northwestern city, on the border with Iran and Turkmenistan. People tried to prevent this destruction by all the means they had at hand. They closed the main road between Herat and neighboring Badghis province to the northeast for a short time. It is reported that police fired at the demonstrators and that the protesters threw stones at the police. There were injuries on both sides. Thirteen people were admitted to the hospital, many with bullet wounds. The police claimed that some of the protesters had been armed. Police arrested eight people, later releasing three.
So much scandal was raised about the demolition of the homes of poor families who have been victimized by the war that even Herat mayor Mohammad Rafigh Mojadadi had to claim that what he had ordered destroyed were “illegally-built shops” and not homes. But western region police spokesman Abdol Raoof Ahmadi contradicted him with his own defense of the demolition, saying that the people had been building homes on state-owned land despite repeated warnings.
Over the last decade, about 30,000 people have settled in the Sheidaee camp near Herat. Many have had to flee provinces such as Badghis and Faryab to the northeast due to the growing insecurity, drought and famine; others were forced out of their homes by the local authorities. Living conditions in this camp are horrible. Over the past few years there has been talk of distributing nearby land to these refuges so that they could build simple homes for themselves. However, that never materialized. Now the municipality, with the help of the police, is trying to demolish the makeshift shelters made of sun-dried mud that people are living in. The authorities have tried to convince or indirectly force people to leave the area and go back to their home provinces. But the security problems and difficult conditions there, and the fact that many people have nothing left in their original region, have caused many to resist eviction, even if it means continuing to live in inhuman conditions.
In fact, the most important reason these poor people cannot go back to their original homes is that their land has been appropriated by old or new powerful people. They have nothing left to go back to. Now they face being driven out again because the land where the refugee camp is located has become valuable as well, which explains why the municipality and the police are so eager to evict poor people.
Land grabbing, especially in the big cities, is a new phenomenon in Afghanistan. It started five or six years ago, not long after the U.S.-led invasion. With the return of many expatriates and the flood of various imperialist advisors, on the one hand, and a shortage of housing and land parcels on the other, prices sky-rocketed. So land grabbing and investing in property have become a popular way to get rich among powerful figures with government connections. Any house or lot that is vacant for any reason (such as the death, imprisonment or flight of the owner) is considered potential booty to be grabbed. If the original occupants come back, there is little they can do to reclaim their homes. General Ghassim Fahim, former defense minister in the Hamid Karzai government and a powerful warlord member of the Jamiat-e-Islami jihadi organization (the main organization in the Northern Alliance of warlords who supported the U.S.-led invasion), is reportedly involved in the land grabbing. Recently Ali Ahmad Jalali, who claimed to be “fighting corruption” while he was interior minister, was accused of involvement in a corruption scandal involving the appropriation of land for construction in Kabul. If some men are getting into trouble for land grabbing, it’s because other, more powerful men are grabbing too.
So when Abdol Raoof Ahmadi, the police spokesman, says that poor people must be evicted from where they have built their shelter because the land is “owned by the state”, he is actually partially revealing the nature of the Afghan state itself.
Revolution #137, July 27, 2008
Increasingly these days, “Israel’s security” is being invoked as a justification for the accelerating confrontation with Iran, and even moves toward a possible military attack by the U.S. (or by Israel with U.S. backing) on Iran.
When Iran carried out missile tests on July 9 and 10, the U.S. and Israel quickly denounced these actions as “provocative” and “unacceptable,” as if they were actions of a group of madmen bent on fomenting war in a peaceful region—even though these tests took place three days after the U.S. and Britain conducted their own naval exercises right off Iran’s coast, and after Israel conducted a major practice run for bombing Iran in June, involving over 100 warplanes.
This portrayal of Israel as the “only democracy in the Middle East” and a victim of “aggression” is widely echoed in the American media—along with threatening statements from top U.S. and Israeli officials that “no options” will be left off the table in defending Israel. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said after the Iranian missile tests, “We take very seriously our obligations to help our allies defend themselves and no one should be confused about that.” Israel’s Defense Minister declared that Israel had “proved in the past that it won’t hesitate to act when its vital security interests are at stake.” The previous month, both presidential candidates spoke at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a powerful pro-Israel group. Barack Obama said at this major event, “In a state of constant insecurity, Israel has maintained a vibrant and open discourse, and a resilient commitment to the rule of law.” John McCain told the same audience, “The State of Israel stands…as the great democracy of the Middle East. [It has] thrived and…built a nation that’s an inspiration to free nations everywhere.”
Ruled out of order in all this is any discussion about the actual history and nature of the state of Israel. (When former Democratic President Jimmy Carter came out with a book titled Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid last year, making some comparisons between Israel’s treatment of Palestinians with the racist apartheid regime that existed in South Africa, he was fiercely attacked, including by top Democratic officials.) In these times of great danger and urgency, it is crucial that people broadly know the truth. Think you know the facts about Israel? Take this quiz and find out. It may bring out truths that you did not know, and it might make you uncomfortable. It might even cause you to question long-held beliefs.
Who Said It?
“A Land Without People for a People Without a Land?”—Or an Ethnically Cleansed Settler State?
Who Has Nukes?
1: Theodore Herzl, founder of the Zionist movement in the 1890s. Zionism arose at a time of great social ferment in Europe, including over the place of Jews in society. Many Jewish people joined Marxist movements or other movements fighting against the oppression of Jews in European societies. But Zionist leaders instead offered to set up a settler-state in the Middle East in the service of various imperialist powers. The imperialist power that eventually became the patron of the Zionist movement was Britain. Herzl explained that “England with her possessions in Asia should be most interested in Zionism…. The shortest route to India is by way of Palestine. And so I believe in England that the idea of Zionism, which is a colonial idea, should easily be understood.” Source: The Jewish State, Theodor Herzl, BN Publishing, 2006
2: David Ben-Gurion, a founder of the state of Israel, in 1956, to Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress. Source: The Jewish Paradox, Nahum Goldmann, Grosset and Dunlap, 1978
3: Moshe Dayan, the commander of Israel’s 1967 war against Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Approximately 500 Arab villages and nearly a dozen urban neighborhoods were utterly destroyed by Israeli settlers. Dayan also remarked that, “There is not a single Jewish village in the land which was not built on the site of an Arab dwelling place.” Source: quoted in The Jewish Paradox, Nahum Goldmann
4: False. A few of the many reasons: Israel was founded in 1948 as a Jewish state. In 1992, a Knesset (Israeli parliament) committee removed a clause from the Israeli Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty before the final version became law. That clause would have guaranteed equal rights before the law for all citizens and outlawed discrimination based on race, nationality, country of origin, religion, or gender. The Israel Democracy Institute reported in May 2003 that 53 percent of Israeli Jews “are against full equality for the Arabs” and only 31 percent “support having Arab political parties in the government.”
5: d. And over half of these 60,000 Jews were recent settlers.
6: False. After the war, Menachem Begin, who later became prime minister, said in a speech to the Israeli National Defense College, “The Egyptian Army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.” And a number of historians and researchers—even within, and supportive of, Israel—have challenged the official story that the “Six Day War” was in response to the threat of Egyptian aggression.
7: c. Source: The Guardian, “Brothers in arms—Israel’s secret pact with Pretoria,” February 7, 2006
8: d. Sources: The Guardian, “Worlds apart,” February 6, 2006; “Murder and Complicity in Guatemala,” Catholic Reporter, April 7, 1995
9. c. Israel, in fact, is the only country in the Middle East possessing nuclear weapons. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said this May that Israel has “150 or more” nuclear weapons. And Israel (unlike Iran) has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Revolution #137, July 27, 2008
Revolution #137, July 27, 2008
PART 2. CHINA’S CAPITALIST DEVELOPMENT AND CHINA’S RISE IN THE WORLD IMPERIALIST SYSTEM: ITS NATURE AND IMPLICATIONS
This is the second in a series of articles about major transformations taking place in the world imperialist system.
Part 1 of this series discussed how the balance of international economic power is shifting among the major imperialist powers and how new geoeconomic blocs of countries are taking shape. The potential is growing for various powers, or alliances of powers, to gain greater geopolitical capacity to challenge U.S. dominance—not necessarily through direct confrontation in this period but nonetheless in increasingly strategic ways. These developments are interacting with other contradictions, conflicts, and struggles in the world.
The U.S. still occupies the primary position in the imperialist world economy. It is the largest economy; the financial glue of the whole world system; and the political-military “guarantor” of a global order that benefits, at least for now, all the big powers.
The U.S.’s economic position in the world has been declining. But U.S. imperialism possesses unparalleled military strength relative to rivals and would-be rivals. And since 2001, it has been pressing this advantage—mounting a global military offensive, focused in Iraq and Afghanistan, to secure unchallengeable dominance for decades to come.
But the United States is encountering difficulties in pursuing its global agenda. Its financial system has been experiencing growing turmoil. The shifts and changes in world economics are impacting U.S. imperialism’s freedom of maneuver.
In short, the imperialist system is in flux. And China is a highly dynamic element in the equation.
The nature of China’s development, and the implications of China’s rise in the world imperialist system, is the topic of this article.
I. INTRODUCTION: NOT A SOCIALIST SOCIETY, A COMPLEX DYNAMIC OF DEVELOPMENT
Many people assume that China is a socialist society—after all, its leaders describe their system as socialist and there is, in name, a ruling communist party. But socialism no longer exists in China. It was overthrown in October 1976. Deng Xiaoping and other leading neo-capitalist forces within the Chinese Communist Party carried out a military coup soon after Mao Tsetung died. These forces moved quickly to arrest the Maoist leadership core and to suppress revolutionary opposition.
Accumulation of capital. The production of surplus value (the source of profit) based on the exploitation of wage labor; and the investment and reinvestment of profit by competing capitals on an expanding, cost-cheapening, and technologically more advanced (and productive) basis. This is a process, as Marx said, of the accumulation of wealth at one pole and misery and agony of toil at the other.
Capital export. The outward flow of investment capital from one country to another. Capital export consists of foreign direct investment in an existing enterprise of the host country or the building of new facilities (as when GM opens a factory in China), and other forms, such as bank loans, investments in stocks and bonds, etc.
Imperialism. The stage of development of capitalism as a world system of exploitation reached in the late 1800s. We live in the age of imperialism. Imperialism involves five key features: a) the dominance of monopoly (large, highly centralized, and powerful units of ownership and control) over the organization of production and distribution; b) the merging of banking and industrial capital into huge financial blocs; c) the central importance of the export of capital to overall profitability; d) the economic division of the world by large corporations, cartels, and the great powers into spheres of influence; and e) the complete territorial division of the world by the imperialist powers into colonies, neocolonies, and zones of influence, so that struggle between the leading imperialist powers will involve the re-division of the world.
The bourgeoisie. The ruling class of capitalist society. This modern exploiting class commands private control (ownership) over large-scale, highly developed, social productive forces—workable only by the collective efforts of a class, the proletariat which, dispossessed of means of production, must sell its labor power in order to survive. The bourgeoisie embodies the capitalist imperative to expand or die. It stands in antagonistic relation to the proletariat. It enforces its rule over society through control of the state and its organs of repression and force.
A new capitalist class rules China. It is subordinate to and dominated by imperialism. Indeed, imperialism has deeply penetrated Chinese society and economy: through investments by transnational corporations…through the activities of global finance…through the influence of imperialist-controlled institutions like the World Bank and World Trade Organization…and through channels of culture and ideology.
China is dependent on imperialism: on massive inflows of investment capital into the Chinese economy; and on access to the export markets of the advanced capitalist countries, like the U.S., Japan, and Germany. This is what has been and what is now most determining of China’s capitalist development.
At the same time, precisely because China has been such a profitable arena for imperialist investment—based on its vast supply of super-exploitable labor, which is China’s “competitive advantage” in the world system—China’s economy has been growing rapidly. As this has continued, and as China’s rulers have acted to strengthen their base of power and initiative, China has gained increasing influence and leverage. This is occurring in a framework in which imperialism, particularly U.S. imperialism, dominates China.
China’s rulers are, increasingly, seeking to carve out space and pursue their own geostrategic interests within this framework and on the same underlying basis: the savage exploitation of wage labor. But in pursuing their interests, China’s capitalist rulers are presenting challenges to a framework that has largely benefited U.S. imperialism.
China may in fact be in transition to becoming an imperialist power. But whether it does, or does not, will not just be a function of economic factors, and certainly not simply those internal to China. Rather, this will turn on different and interpenetrating economic, political, and military developments in the world system, including unexpected developments: crises, wars, class struggles in China and the world, and revolutions.
Overall, a complex dynamic of dependency and growing strength is shaping China’s development and rise in the world imperialist system—and reacting back on this system. How this plays out is not predetermined. But it is already a major and defining faultline in the world.
II. CHINA’S RAPID GROWTH: DRIVEN BY FOREIGN CAPITAL, EXPORT-DEPENDENT
China is now the world’s second-largest economy after the United States. China’s rate of growth has been the fastest among all major economies in the world, averaging close to 10 percent growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over the last two decades. By contrast the imperialist countries’ average annual growth rate was 2-4 percent. China’s GDP, its output of goods and services, doubled between 1990 and 2005. China, however, remains a poor country, with output (and income) per person far below that of the advanced capitalist countries.
China’s exceptionally high and sustained rate of growth and industrialization over the last two decades may well be without precedent in the history of capitalism. More to the point, this sustained growth is a) leading to an enormous buildup of productive capacity in China; b) profoundly influencing the trajectory of global capitalist development; and c) contributing to China’s rapid rise as a world economic power.
A. China in the World Economy
China is becoming the center of gravity of world manufacturing. In recent years, China has been among the top five major destinations for foreign investment, and it is the main destination for foreign industrial investment in the world. China has been a growth engine for the imperialist world economy. China consumes some 20 to 25 percent of the global supply of iron, steel, aluminum, and copper. China accounts for one-third of the world’s rise in demand for oil.
China is deeply involved in the world economy. It is the world’s largest non-U.S. holder of dollars. It is engaged in competitive struggles for raw materials and energy resources in Africa and elsewhere with the U.S. (and other imperialist powers). China is emerging as a growing and increasingly assertive geoeconomic force in the world. And U.S. imperialism, for its part, has been increasingly targeting China as a potential long-term competitor and adversary.
China’s rapid growth is inextricably bound up with huge inflows of foreign investment capital:
Investment by foreign capital in China has spawned the development of vast new production complexes in China’s coastal areas, where 80 percent of all foreign investment goes. And in the last twenty years, some 200 million rural laborers have relocated to the urban areas to find work. This super-exploitable army of migrant labor, facing low pay in work and discrimination in housing and services, feeds the labor requirements of these production complexes.
Foreign capital in China is heavily invested in low-cost, low-value manufactured goods, like garments. China is also producing electronics and information technology (IT) goods—and is now the biggest exporter to the U.S. of computers, computer electronics, and other IT goods. But a high proportion of those exports involve assembly in foreign-owned plants in China or operations contracted to local Chinese capitalists of high-tech components manufactured outside of China. This is an example of China’s distorted development.
China is the largest recipient of direct foreign investment in the Third World. And overseas firms derive exceptionally high profits from their operations in China. As Chart 1 shows, rates of return on U.S. manufacturing investments in China are twice the level of comparable investments in the European Union (EU) countries, and higher than in Latin America.
Another example of imperialist-led development: when imperialist capital contracts out to Chinese firms, the flow of profits is disproportionately towards imperialism. Take an iPod sold in the United States for $299. Only $4 stays in China with the firms that assemble the devices, while $160 goes to American companies that design, transport, and retail the iPods.
International capital has molded China’s economy into, and integrated it as, a key link in an East Asian regional system of high-profit, export-oriented production.
China relies heavily on the U.S. market, which is its top export destination. Thus China’s economic vitality hinges crucially on growth of demand in the U.S. market, demand that is increasingly financed by debt. China is also dependent on export markets in another way: it must exponentially expand exports to pay for its rising bill for imports of energy, minerals, food, semifinished goods, capital goods (like machinery), and luxury goods catering to its new affluent classes.
B. Some Historical Perspective and the Crimes of China’s New Capitalist Rulers
In the 19th century, Western capitalism came to dominate China—through wars, the imposition of unequal treaties, and the splicing up of China into foreign spheres of influence. The economic and military penetration by foreign powers brutally continued: the U.S.’s economic pressure to “open up” the Chinese market, Japanese aggression and occupation in the 1930s, and U.S backing of the corrupt and reactionary Chiang Kai-shek forces in China’s civil war of 1945-49. China had lost its sovereignty, and economic development in China was twisted and stunted by imperialist domination.
The Chinese revolution of 1949-76 changed all of this. It broke the vise-grip of foreign control. It destroyed the foundations of exploitative and corrupt landlord and bureaucrat-capitalist rule. China’s resources now served the needs of all-around development. Under Mao’s leadership, China constructed a self-reliant and balanced economy. A modern industrial base was built. Transport and power stations, part of a new infrastructure created by the collective efforts of society, served this balanced development. Industry was spread to towns and villages. Communes were established in the countryside: farming was carried out cooperatively at different levels, peasants joined together to construct vast irrigation and flood control systems, health services and education were provided at low cost. A skilled and healthy labor force was the result.
After overthrowing socialism in 1976, China’s new capitalist rulers basically opened China up and delivered it over to foreign capital. Imperialism, together with the new capitalist rulers in China, plugged into and transformed China’s past socialist development to serve the accumulation of capital. The new regime stripped workers of rights and turned them into wage slaves for foreign and new domestic capital. They dismantled the communes; and peasants dispossessed of land or unable to support themselves in agriculture migrated out of desperation (and the lure of higher incomes) to the cities in the booming coastal regions to become a caste of flexible, super-exploitable, and disposable workers. The infrastructure built up during the socialist period functioned as a kind of subsidy for imperialist-led development.
C. China’s Bourgeoisie and the State Sector
A state-based section of the ruling class is at the core of power in China and rules through its political instrumentality, the Chinese Communist Party—which has nothing in common with socialism or communism. This core fraction of the Chinese bourgeoisie has control over key levers of the Chinese economy. It regulates monetary and tax policy. It is closely linked to and dependent on foreign capital, and it is integrated with large domestic private capital. And it commands the military and repressive force of state power—and uses this power brutally against the masses, as we saw in the suppression of students and workers during the Tiananmen Square upheaval of 1989.
The state economic sector includes government-owned industrial enterprises and banks, and accounts for about 35 percent of China’s economy. The private capitalist sector of the economy is growing much more rapidly—and much of the state sector has been privatized. Since 1995, China’s state sector has undergone considerable restructuring. It has shed a vast number of firms and tens of millions of employees. But a core of state enterprises dominates much of heavy industry and key service sectors. And the state sector remains an economic base of power of this leading fraction of China’s bourgeoisie.
State control remains very strong in the banking and insurance sectors, even as they have sold shares to private international investors.
Within the framework of imperialist domination and dependency on imported technology, the Chinese state has, to some degree, been strategically steering China’s development. One of its goals is for China to “move up” the manufacturing ladder to more sophisticated production. China is producing more capital-intensive goods, engaging in more modular (technologically advanced, standardized) manufacturing, and so forth.
China’s ruling class is attempting to expand and diversify China’s industrial-technological base and to influence patterns of development.
An auto industry, spearheaded by foreign capital (companies like Volkswagen and General Motors), is now rapidly developing in China. But as a condition of entry into the China market, the Chinese government is requiring unprecedented technology transfers from transnational corporations. The regime has insisted that its domestic automotive makers maintain joint ventures with its competing foreign partners.
Very importantly, China is investing in large-scale and long-term research and development. And the government is promoting national private and state companies to be national frontrunners in industries like computers and telecommunications.
China’s rulers are seeking to turn imperialist, foreign-dominated development into a base to fortify China’s position as a world economic power and from which to project and amplify that power on a world scale.
Still, China’s high-speed development as it has unfolded remains dominated by foreign capital and reliant on international markets. It is vulnerable to fluctuations in world market demand. It must attract foreign capital—which is constantly looking for even more low-cost zones of production—from Mexico…to China…to Vietnam. This project requires and puts a premium on social and political stability in society and the economy but has, at the same time, produced extreme and acute agricultural-industrial distortions and vast regional and social inequalities. The gap in incomes between China’s urban and rural areas is, by some statistical reckonings, greater than in any other country in the world, and this is profoundly destabilizing.
D. Reality Check
Cost-minimizing, high-profit, rapid growth is a key objective of China’s ruling class. It is based on the exploitation of wage labor and peasant labor—on the blood and bones of the Chinese people. It is chaotic, ruinous, and environmentally disastrous economic development.
Five of the ten most polluted cities in the world are in China. The Three Gorges Dam project, the scale of which is unparalleled in human history, has massively destroyed ecosystems and uprooted huge populations. Ravenous commercial development is destroying farmland at a quickening pace (farmers are pressured by local government officials to sell their land-use rights and are barely compensated). China has now lost half of its wetlands. Capitalist development is an ecological disaster. It has been estimated that air pollution, water pollution, and other forms of environmental degradation are responsible for disease and premature deaths claiming the lives of some 400,000 people in China each year.
China’s economic development is a human disaster:
The Sichuan earthquake in the spring of 2008 took a far greater toll among China’s poor: shoddily built schools for the less affluent collapsed and many children died unnecessarily. Peasants must pay fees for medical services and schooling. A recent survey of the Chinese health system concluded. “The less well-off increasingly go without health care altogether.”
In urban China, it is not unusual for low-paid wage laborers in the export sector to work 80-hour work weeks in factories with abominable health and safety conditions. In the West, we hear about the lead paint in toys produced in China, but not about the toxic fumes being inhaled, the injuries suffered, and limbs lost by the workers in those toy factories. According to one Chinese government survey, 72 percent of the country’s nearly 100 million migrant workers are owed unpaid wages—and this is an important source of capital accumulated by private and foreign firms.
Significantly, China’s economic boom of 1990-2002 actually led to a decline in formal wage employment in the urban sector (that is, regular jobs with certain protections and standards), as the state sector sought to achieve greater efficiency and profitability. Much of the new job creation has been in the private sector and especially in what is called the informal sector: insecure and unregulated jobs, casual labor on the construction crews of China’s mega-projects (skyscrapers in the cities, infrastructure for the 2008 Olympics, dam construction in river areas), street trading, and illegal activities.
One expression of these trends is China’s burgeoning “sex industry.” Some women’s groups estimate that China now has some 20 million sex workers, most of whom come from the rural areas to work in red-light districts in the sprawling new industrial and commercial centers.
Rural women face new burdens, with husbands and sons migrating to cities. Their life opportunities are restricted. One of the saddest and least reported social developments in China’s countryside is that women—young women—are committing suicide in unprecedented numbers. This is a far cry from Maoist China, when the struggle against the oppression of women was a central focus of the continuing revolutionary transformation of society.
III. China as Rising Economic Power
with Strategic Goals
The rapid development of capitalism in China is cohering a China-centered regional grid of capitalist production in East Asia, in which Japanese imperialism plays a major organizing role. East Asia is the most dynamic manufacturing region in the world. China’s rulers are fostering greater economic-political linkages throughout East Asia. China is also building up its capacity to project military power in the region. And it is pushing outward into other parts of the world.
A. Growing Financial Leverage
China has become a major actor in world currency and financial markets. China holds $1.8 trillion in foreign exchange reserves—a store of wealth that is also used as a means of international payments. Foreign exchange reserves come from export earnings as well as from other investment earnings. And China is an extraordinary export machine—the United States imports more goods from China than from any other country. China has now surpassed Japan as the world’s largest holder of foreign exchange reserves. Most of these reserves (for now) are kept in dollars—invested in U.S. treasury securities, U.S. government agency debt, and other financial instruments.
China’s dollar holdings are a source of considerable financial leverage in the world imperialist economy. The U.S. has huge government deficits (it spends more on its wars, social programs, interest payments, etc. than it collects in taxes). The U.S. has huge trade deficits (it imports more than it exports). It borrows huge amounts of capital to cover its international financial imbalances. And, critically, the U.S. depends on countries like China continuing to finance its debt.
In 2007-08, China’s “sovereign wealth funds”—these are vast pools of financial wealth managed by governments—were looked to by weakened Wall Street financial and brokerage firms, like Morgan Stanley, to provide them with much needed capital.
China is a huge importer of fuels and minerals, accounting for nearly 40 percent of world market growth for these goods since 1995. Because of China’s high-speed and globally oriented development on a less-developed technological foundation than exists in a country like Japan—China uses seven times as much energy for the same volume of production as does Japan (and three times as much as India).
And China is seeking to secure access to raw materials to feed its industrial machine. In Latin America and Africa, China is investing in extractive industries and buying up firms. China’s foreign direct investment increased from $1.8 billion in 2003 to $16.1 billion in 2006. About half of this is in natural resource industries.
A competitive scramble is beginning to take shape in Africa for control over oil and mineral supplies. U.S. oil companies have been stepping up their investments in countries like Angola, Nigeria, and Equatorial Guinea. In 2007, the U.S. military also established a new unified Africa Command, AFRICOM. (Prior to this, military deployments were coordinated by commands outside of Africa.) This is a major initiative by U.S. imperialism both to secure oil supplies and control over other natural resources and to incorporate more parts of Africa in America’s “war on terror.” As part of this, the U.S. has been stepping up arms transfers and military support agreements with various African governments.
Since the mid-1990s, China has been stepping up its activities in Africa. China is now Africa’s third largest trading partner. China’s state-owned oil company acquired a controlling share in Sudan’s leading oil company. It has become an investor in Algeria’s oil industry. And it has been making its own investment forays into the oil sectors of Angola and Nigeria. Africa now provides about 30 percent of China’s oil import requirements. Chinese mining firms in search of cobalt, uranium, copper, and other industrial minerals, supported by the Chinese state, have been investing in, extending financial assistance, and forging closer ties with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.
All this investment and maneuvering on China’s part is miniscule compared to the involvement of the U.S. and Europe in Africa. But there is intensifying rivalry in Africa, and a scramble increasingly involving China is underway.
China is utilizing political and diplomatic ties, weapons sales and training agreements, and low-interest loans to advance its interests. It is ideologically positioning itself in parts of the Third World by criticizing U.S. domination and some of the U.S. policies that squeeze Third World countries. And it is taking advantage of the fact that the U.S. is focused and tied down in the Middle East, where its wars for greater empire are now being waged.
U.S. imperialism has been increasingly targeting China as a strategic competitor. Since 2006, the U.S. Defense Department in its annual survey of China has put competition with China over resources on par with conflict over Taiwan as a potential spark for a U.S. war with China.
It is in the context of China’s rise in the world economy and rivalry with China that we can begin to see U.S. demonization and scapegoating of China: for exporting unsafe foods and medicines, for intellectual property-rights infringements, for human rights violations, and for increasing its military spending.
B. Geopolitical Ambitions
and the Russia-China Connection
China’s fast-paced, resource-scarce, and anarchic economic growth, under the dominance of imperialist capital, is objectively driving its emergence as a world power with geopolitical ambitions.
China’s military spending has increased three-fold in the past decade according to estimates by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. In 2006, it surpassed Japan as the largest military spender in East Asia, and China now has the third largest military budget in the world. China has been upgrading its naval capabilities, improving its ballistic missile arsenals, and entering high-tech arenas like militarization of space. China’s military spending is incredibly dwarfed by that of U.S. imperialism, but China’s military power is a growing factor in international relations, especially in East Asia.
Coming from a perspective of how to advance the interests of U.S. imperialism, two former U.S. government policy advisers reflect a certain aspect of reality in their depiction of the changing geopolitical situation confronting the United States in this critical region: “After 60 years of U.S. domination, the balance of power in Northeast Asia is shifting. The United States is in relative decline, China is on the rise, and Japan and South Korea are in flux. To maintain U.S. power in the region, Washington must identify the trends shaping this transition and embrace new tools and regimes that broaden the United States’ power base.”
One of the features of the current situation is the growing convergence of interests of China and Russia in key arenas and the multiplication of Sino-Russian ties and cooperation. In 2006, China became the number one economic partner of Russia, and China has also been financing important Russian pipeline projects—which will be discussed in the next installment of this series.
Both China and Russia are providing arms to oil and gas producers in the Third World. Both are increasing their military capability in key energy producing regions. And both powers joined together in 2001 to form the Shanghai Cooperation Organization of Central Asian countries.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is a major development in world relations. China’s economic growth and rise in the world economy are increasingly finding expression in the geopolitical and military realms. The SCO is a regional energy alliance and a regional security alliance in Central Asia. Its core member states are China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
The SCO is bringing together Chinese economic strength with Russian military capability and energy resources. In the summer of 2007, the SCO conducted its first military exercises. This was also the first time that Chinese airborne troops were deployed outside Chinese territory.
The SCO is clearly aimed at reducing and countering U.S. influence in Central Asia and at concentrating certain strengths, and overcoming certain weaknesses, of Russia and China—and drawing others around them. This is a fledgling but significant vehicle of rivalry in a volatile, energy-rich region of the world.
C. Some New Questions
Some new questions are posed by China’s rapid ascent in the world economy.
Could China “decouple” (the phrase is used by financial as well as by geopolitical analysts) from its reliance on the U.S. export market and abandon its willingness to finance U.S. deficits?
In the short run, the answer seems to be a resounding no—given the huge shocks this could set off (China would stand to lose billions if it quickly bolted the dollar and caused the value of the dollar to plummet) and the fact that China’s dependent and distorted development requires export markets on a huge scale. It appears that China cannot easily switch to stimulating domestic demand as a substitute for Western export markets.
In the intermediate and longer term, the possibilities for “decoupling” look rather different, especially in connection with other world economic and geopolitical shifts.
China’s high rate of growth and the profitability it has afforded imperialist capital have been a vital stimulus to the world economy, including U.S. imperialism. At the same time, a more cohesive and competitive West European economic bloc, the European Union, is now playing a more major role in the world economy and world finance.
Still, as mentioned at the start of this analysis, the U.S. occupies the primary position in the imperialist world economy. And owing to China’s deep immersion in the imperialist world economy, if it suffers the full brunt of what might be an unfolding global economic downturn this could have huge and destabilizing feedback effects, both on China and on the world economy. How China and the U.S. respond to and come out of the 2008 financial crisis may have long-term, geopolitical ramifications.
China has been able to sustain high growth rates. But it is a capitalist economy. It is not immune to instability and crisis. It is estimated that 75 percent of China’s industries are plagued by overcapacity, that is, too much investment relative to markets. Inflation is heating up in China. Social polarization is widening: strikes, protests and confrontations in the countryside over corruption, land takeovers, and environmental damage have multiplied in recent years.
The dynamics of China’s rise are complex. There is, however, a shaping contradiction: dependency and growing economic strength. China is dependent on foreign capital and foreign markets. But China has also emerged as a world economic power, a center of world manufacturing. It has accumulated vast foreign exchange reserves, and gained considerable financial leverage—increasingly over the dollar. And China is more aggressively seeking markets in the Third World and exporting capital beyond its borders.
Stepping back, what seems to be guiding the Chinese ruling class is a long-term, strategic, and competitive orientation: to diversify and fortify a domestically rooted industrial base, to extend international economic and financial reach, and to strengthen military capabilities but to do so without provoking direct showdowns with U.S. imperialism.
Could China evolve into an imperialist capital formation? It is a question that cannot be dismissed out of hand, though neither is it a straight-line, foregone conclusion. But it is a real possibility—China may be in a stage of transition to becoming an imperialist power. How likely is such a qualitative development, and by what pathways might it proceed? These are historically contingent matters that will turn on the interaction of the motion and development of Chinese capitalism with the class struggle in China, with larger shifts, displacements, and eruptions in world economics… and with big and unexpected developments in world politics, including wars and other conflicts, as well as revolutionary struggles.
Next, Part 3: The European Union, Russia, Japan, and India
1. Keith Bradsher, “Labor Costs Soar in China, So Its Neighbors Beckon,” New York Times, June 18, 2008; John C.K. Daly, “Feeding the Dragon: China’s Quest for African Minerals,” China Brief, January 31, 2008, jamestown.org; Energy Information Administration, Country Analysis Briefs: China, August 2006, eia.doe.gov.[back]
3. Wang Zile, “Foreign Acquisition in China: Threat or Security,” China Security, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Spring 2007), p. 90.[back]
4. U.S.-China Business Council, Forecast 2008: Foreign Investment in China, p. 1.[back]
7. Charlemagne, “Winners and losers,” The Economist, March 1, 2008, p. 56.[back]
9. Mobo Gao, The Battle For China’s Past: Mao and the Cultural Revolution (London: Pluto, 2008), pp. 160, 179; Joseph Kahn and Jim Yardley, “Amid China’s Boom, No Helping Hand for Young Qingming, New York Times, August 1, 2004.[back]
10. Elizabeth Economy, “China vs. Earth,” The Nation, April 19, 2007; Jim Yardley, “China’s Turtles, Emblems of a Crisis,” New York Times, December 5, 2007; L. Alan Winters and Shahid Yusuf, eds., Dancing with Giants (Washington D.C.: World Bank, 2007), p. 14.[back]
11. Li Onesto, “The Capitalist Ground Shaken by the Earthquake in China,” Revolution #131, June 1, 2008, revcom.us; Sanjay Reddy, “Death in China: Market Reforms and Health,” New Left Review 45, May-June 2007.[back]
12. Anita Chan, “A `Race to the Bottom,’” China Perspectives, no. 46 (March-April 2003), p. 43; David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (London: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 148.[back]
13. Martin Hart-Landsberg and Paul Burkett “China, Capitalist Accumulation, and Labor,” Monthly Review, May 2007, pp. 28-29.[back]
14. Howard W. French, “The Sex Industry is Everywhere But Nowhere,” New York Times, December 14, 2006, cited in Hart-Landsberg and Burkett, p. 29. [back]
15. Robert Weil, “Were Revolutions in China Necessary,” Socialism and Democracy, Vol. 21, July 2007, pp. 20-22.[back]
16. Winters and Yusuf, Dancing with Giants, p. 14; Parag Khanna, The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order, New York: Random House, 2008, p. 313fn.[back]
18. On great power competition for resources in Africa and China’s growing economic presence in Africa, see Michael T. Klare, Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2008), Chapter 6; Jian-Ye Wang and Abdoulaye Bio-Tchane, “Africa’s Burgeoning Ties with China,” Finance and Development (IMF), March 2008, Vol. 45, No. 1; David H. Shinn, “Africa, China, The United States, and Oil,” Africa Policy Forum, forums.csis.org. [back]
21. Jason T. Shaplen and James Laney, “Washington’s Eastern Sunset: The Decline of U.S. Power in Northeast Asia,” Foreign Affairs, November-December 2007, online edition, summary, p. 1, foreignaffairs.org. [back]
22. On the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, see Bates Gill and Mathew Oresman, “China’s New Journey to the West” (Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2003), pp. 5-12; See also, Klare, “New Geopolitics of Energy.” [back]
23. Ho-fung Hung, “Rise of China and the Global Overaccumulation Crisis,” Review of International Political Economy, 15:2, May 2008, p. 159.[back]
Revolution #137, July 27, 2008
The Chinese revolution of 1949-76 was an historic breakthrough for world humanity. The revolution came to power in 1949, following more than twenty years of armed struggle led by Mao Tsetung and the Chinese Communist Party. This was a struggle against a decaying and oppressive semifeudal system, against bureaucrat capitalism with close ties to foreign capital, and against the imperialist powers that dominated China.
Before 1949, China was overwhelmingly a country of impoverished peasants desperately eking out a living. China was a society in which arranged marriage, the barbarous practice of female footbinding, and the killing off of “useless” female infants were commonplace in the countryside. In a city like Shanghai, 25,000 bodies were collected off the streets each year. This was a country in which four million people died annually of infectious diseases, in which 60 million people were addicted to opium.
The Chinese revolution quickly tackled and solved these problems. A socialist economy based on genuine socialist state ownership and planning made it possible to orient production and allocate resources toward meeting the most pressing needs of those who had previously been on the bottom of society. But this was not some welfare state: it was a revolution led by a communist party to put an end to all exploitation and oppression and one that relied on mobilizing the conscious activism of hundreds of millions to change society, to change themselves, and to promote the world revolution.
Land reform led to peasant cooperatives and then, in 1958, to the people’s communes. By 1970, China solved its historic food problem, doing so on the basis of a self-reliant economy in which industry was supporting agriculture. Economic development in Maoist China was consciously guided by the goal of overcoming the great gaps between town and country, industry and agriculture, and mental and manual labor.
A mass-based health care system combined modern and traditional medicine. In the countryside, a generation of “barefoot doctors”—young peasants and urban youth—became a key link in a rural health infrastructure of village clinics and township medical centers, and mass preventive health campaigns. Life expectancy in China doubled from 32 years in 1949 to 65 years in 1976.
But it was the Cultural Revolution that stands as the Chinese revolution’s greatest achievement…and Mao’s greatest contribution to the theory and practice of communist revolution. This was a “revolution within the revolution” to prevent the seizure of power by a new capitalist class headquartered within the Communist Party—and to further revolutionize society towards classless, communist society.
In major cities throughout the country, workers led by the Maoist forces in the Party waged intense struggles against conservative power holders and carried out mass power seizures leading to the creation of new institutional forms of governance. During the Cultural Revolution, the educational system was transformed; new forms of collective management were forged in the factories; the ethos of “serve the people” was spread; leaders and administrators at all levels of society were subjected to mass criticism. Peasants were debating big issues of politics and taking up science and culture.
But, ultimately, the more powerful neo-capitalist forces were able to defeat the revolution. Mao predicted that if the capitalist-roaders came to power, they would set out quickly to restore capitalism and collaborate with imperialism. His enemies branded Mao as paranoid. He was actually quite prescient.*
Revolution #137, July 27, 2008
“One thing I’ve always thought about growing up is, say if I was in Germany in the ’30s and the ‘40s, and knowing all that stuff was going on. What would I do in that situation? I want to say I would do everything I could and put my body on the line and take a risk to make sure that situation ended.... It seems that right now the United States empire is just as bad and on the verge of killing millions of people, so it’s our duty to do everything we can to stop it.”
Olympia port resister
speaking with Revolution
Over the past two years, Olympia, Washington, has been at the center of resistance to military shipments headed for the Iraq war. And port actions have also taken place in Tacoma and Aberdeen, Washington, and Oakland, California.
Hundreds of people have protested at the Olympia port, going up against the police who have used pepper spray, batons, and tasers against demonstrators. There has been police state surveillance, harassment, threats from reactionaries, and slander from the media. And dozens have been arrested.
Now, activists with the Port Militarization Resistance (PMR) and others are mobilizing another round of resistance in the Puget Sound area to oppose the expected return of Stryker Brigade vehicles from Iraq headed to nearby Ft. Lewis.
These port actions are aimed at stopping the Iraq war—not symbolic protests or actions that rely on the Democratic Party or the existing political framework. And these actions and others like them are crucial to support and spread.
Port Resistance and the Maneuverings of the State
“The stakes are high because what’s happening in Olympia with the port protests and other actions has not really happened anywhere else in the country. And I think the higher ups know that if this is able to spread, then that’s a big threat to imperialism.”
Student Olympia port resister
speaking with Revolution
Last November, dozens of activists blocked Styker Brigade vehicles returning to Ft. Lewis from Iraq through the port of Olympia. Others set up physical blockades on roads to stop equipment from moving. At one point, military vehicles were prevented from moving for up to 17 hours, and these actions went on for days. Police attacked protesters with pepper spray and other weapons, and 66 people were arrested.
The Daily Olympian (the main paper in town) has openly supported police brutality against protesters—calling for the city to prosecute people, publishing lists of those arrested, and printing calls from the police for people to identify protesters in police videotapes. Letters to editor and blogs in the Olympian have also become a forum for reactionaries to threaten protesters.
In the face of this, hundreds continued to rally in support of the port actions. In November, 100 people came to a city council meeting in Olympia to expose the brutality of the police against port demonstrators and hundreds protested in support of the port actions.
In May, Thurston County police and prosecutors announced a “zero tolerance” policy for anyone involved in “property damage and violence” arising from public demonstrations. After this, city officials announced they were bringing back charges against seven people from the November 2007 protests. One person re-charged was Shyam Khanna, who now faces charges of “third-degree assault and riot.” Shyam told Revolution that the police have repeatedly shown up to his apartment, videotaped him and friends, and followed, harassed, and threatened him as he walked around town. Other activists have had police cars sit outside their houses or been pulled over and harassed ,and there have been reports of police spying on email communications and surveilling car pools organized for protests.
The first of two trials of 22 people arrested in Olympia from 2006 protests resulted in a mistrial when a cop, who identified himself as being with Homeland Security, presented a copy of a confidential email sent between defense lawyers and defendants. Charges were dismissed against the protesters in the second trial when a judge found prosecutors guilty of “gross negligence” for failing to turn over discovery evidence to the defense.
Larry Hildes, a lawyer from the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), who is defending some of the activists, told Revolution that the FBI attempted to interview one defendant in jail. This activist’s notebook, with his anarchist political views, was photographed to be used as possible “evidence.” This is especially chilling in light of recent legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007.” This “thought crimes bill” is a major step toward making advocacy of radical, anti-government ideas and politics illegal in the name of the “war on terror.”
People in Olympia have continued to organize resistance in opposition to all these attacks. And it’s very important that the people facing charges are defended while more people are brought into opposition to all this repression. This type of resistance, like the actions earlier this year in Berkeley against the recruitment stations (See “The Battle of Berkeley Continues,” Revolution #134, June 29, 2008, and other coverage at revcom.us.) is very important to support and spread as part of fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution.
Revolution #137, July 27, 2008
Part 1: Mad Scientists and Criminal Laboratories
A July 2 New York Times article titled, “China Inspired Interrogations at Guantánamo,” reported that in December 2002 military trainers at Guantánamo Bay based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of “coercive management techniques.” These techniques included “sleep deprivation,” “prolonged constraint,” and “exposure.” According to the article, the “chart was copied from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners.”
The 1957 article says these alleged methods are the same ones that “inquisitors had employed for centuries” and were nothing that “was not common practice to police and intelligence interrogators of other times and nations.” But then it goes on to say that the chart is evidence that “Communist interrogation methods” are the basis for the kind of torture currently being done today by the U.S. military and the CIA.
Albert D. Biderman, a sociologist working for the Air Force, wrote an article entitled, “Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions from Air Force Prisoners of War.” Biderman interviewed U.S. soldiers who had been captured in the Korean War. Some of these GIs had been filmed by their captors, confessing to the use of germ warfare and other atrocities by the U.S.
Did the U.S. carry out atrocities in the Korean War?
Yes. In fact, recently declassified U.S. documents and photographs reveal that U.S. Army officers were aware of and in some instances supervised mass executions—of as many as 200,000 people. U.S. soldiers carried out indiscriminate massacres of civilians, including many women and children. The U.S. dropped bombs, including napalm, on villages. (See “Little Known Truth about the Korean War: Nightmare of Massacres by U.S. and South Korean Troops,” Revolution #136, July 20, 2008.) And there is credible evidence that the U.S. was experimenting with germ warfare in limited covert actions during the Korean War. (See The United States and Biological Warfare: Secrets from the Early Cold War and Koreaby Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman, Indiana University Press, 1999.)
But when captured U.S. soldiers confessed to such crimes, the question asked by the U.S. government wasn’t: was this actually true or not. These “confessions” were just declared “false” and then the question became: how were these American prisoners “brainwashed” to say such things? And on the basis of this, the U.S. military set out to find a way to “inoculate” U.S. soldiers against making such “false confessions.”
There is a question of what the actual truth is about how North Korean soldiers and Chinese communists treated POWs during the Korean War. The U.S. Congress carried out extensive hearings, led by the infamous anti-communist and liar Senator Joe McCarthy, on the treatment of U.S. Korean War POWs, where soldiers said they were badly treated—something which should be further investigated. And Biderman argues that there is evidence that some Air Force POWs (who were suspected of carrying out germ warfare experiments) were subjected to things like being forced to stand for long periods of time and put in isolated confinement. But Biderman’s article and the congressional hearings do not argue (or provide any evidence) that anything like electroshock, water torture, or sensory deprivation was used. A later part of this series will explore and address this more fully. But the argument by the New York Times that “China Inspired Interrogations at Guantánamo”—that is, that there is a direct relationship between methods used by Chinese communists during the Korean War and things like electroshock and waterboarding being used at Guantánamo—relies on assumptions and speculation. No concrete facts and proof are offered by the New York Times article. This article was picked up and spread all over the world. Now, suddenly, there’s a new “explanation” for the horrendous torture the U.S. has used at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib: This can be blamed on the communists!
In point of fact, there is a whole history of how electroshock and sensory deprivation came to be used by the United States as a form of torture. And this has nothing to do with so-called “communist interrogation methods.”
Human Guinea Pigs
The New York Times got one thing right when it said that the U.S. impetus for developing torture techniques came out of a Cold War fear of communism. A follow up New York Times article (July 6) discusses how after the Korean War, the CIA set out to find “mind-control techniques to grill suspected double agents.”
The CIA set up secret prisons in U.S.-occupied Germany and Japan and, according to the article: “In these cells, the agency conducted experiments in drug-induced brainwashing and other ‘special techniques’ for interrogations. These continued inside and outside the United States, sometimes on unsuspecting human guinea pigs, long after the Korean War ended in 1953.”
In other words: Cruel and inhuman torture techniques—such as shock treatment, sensory deprivation, and the use of hallucinogenic drugs—were developed and refined by carrying out cruel and inhuman experiments. And this was directly conceived of, funded by, and utilized by the CIA and the U.S. military.
EXHIBIT A: MK-ULTRA
Project MK-ULTRA was the code name for a covert CIA program that began in the early 1950s and continued at least through the late 1960s. The aim of this project was to research “mind-control” and the use of drugs, i.e. “chemical interrogation,” and come up with a way to manipulate and alter people’s brains in order to get information.
MK-ULTRA became public in 1975 through an investigation by a U.S. congressional committee. Efforts to fully expose this covert program were hampered by the fact that CIA Director Richard Helms had ordered all MK-ULTRA files destroyed in 1973. But it is clear that this program subjected hundreds of people to CIA-funded experiments carried out at universities, prisons, mental hospitals, and drug rehabilitation centers.
According to a 1994 article, “The Cold War Experiments,” in U.S. News and World Report: “From the end of World War II well into the 1970s, the Atomic Energy Commission, the Defense Department, the military services, the CIA and other agencies used prisoners, drug addicts, mental patients, college students, soldiers, even bar patrons, in a vast range of government-run experiments to test the effects of everything from radiation, LSD and nerve gas to intense electric shocks and prolonged ‘sensory deprivation.’ Some of the human guinea pigs knew what they were getting into; many others did not even know they were being experimented on.”
Air Force officer Lloyd Gamble volunteered in 1957 to take part in a test at the Army Chemical Warfare Laboratories in Edgewood, Maryland. He said he was told he would be testing gas masks and protective gear. Later Gamble suffered blackouts, deep depression, acute anxiety, and violent behavior. In 1960 he tried to kill himself. Eighteen years after the experiment, in 1975, Gamble learned that he and a thousand other soldiers had been given LSD.
In other experiments the U.S. Army exposed as many as 3,000 soldiers to BZ, a powerful hallucinogen being developed as a chemical weapon. BZ attacks the nervous system and causes dizziness, vomiting, and immobility. Thousands of other human guinea pigs, who were part of the Army’s Medical Volunteer Program, were tested with nerve gas and various vaccines and antidotes.
Over a decade, MK-ULTRA spent $25 million on research, and 80 institutions were involved in the program, including 44 universities and 12 hospitals.
EXHIBIT B: DR. CAMERON’S “BRAINWASHING” LAB
In the 1950s, Canadian psychiatrist Dr. Ewen Cameron developed a method to treat psychotics using what he called “depatterning’’ and “psychic driving.’’ Cameron took psychiatric patients and gave them huge doses of electroshock (ECT). He gave them all kinds of experimental drugs, including hallucinogens like LSD and PCP. And he kept them in isolation for weeks.
The fact that the CIA funded all this was revealed in the late 1970s through a Freedom of Information request that led to hearings in the U.S. Senate. And details of the CIA-backed crimes of Ewen Cameron have been widely documented, including in the recent book The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein (Metropolitan Books, 2007).
Cameron’s patients had come to him for things like postpartum depression and anxiety. Some just wanted help with a troubled marriage. But then, without their knowledge and without their permission, they became test subjects in experiments aimed at giving the CIA ways to control the human mind.
Cameron was a U.S. citizen who was highly regarded in his profession. He had been president of the American Psychiatric Association, president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association, and president of the World Psychiatric Association. In 1945 he had testified at the war crimes trials in Nuremburg regarding the sanity of Adolph Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess.
In the midst of Cold War hysteria, the CIA developed a covert program to research “special interrogation techniques.” A declassified CIA memo revealed that this program “examined and investigated numerous unusual techniques of interrogation, including psychological harassment and such matters as “total isolation,” as well as “the use of drugs and chemicals.” (CIA, “Memorandum for the Record, Subject: Project ARTICHOKE,” January 31, 1975, available at: www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv.)
It was in this context that the CIA became interested in Cameron’s theories and experiments. And Cameron, who was a staunch anti-communist, was happy to sacrifice his patients to the CIA’s Cold War efforts.
The theory behind Cameron’s experiments was not only criminally inhuman but also highly unscientific. The basic idea was that administering repeated electric shocks to the human brain would erase a “faulty” mind. And Cameron would then supposedly be able to rebuild a new personality on a “clean slate.”
Cameron kept increasing the dosages of electroshock to his patients. This got to the point where some were getting shocks twice a day for 30 days—which came to 360 individual shocks to each patient.
Take the case of Gail Kastner, who was one of Dr. Cameron’s “patients.” No less than 63 times, she had 150 to 200 volts of electricity sent into the frontal lobes of her brain. Each time, this sent her body into violent convulsions. As a result, she suffered fractures, sprains, bloody lips, and broken teeth.
Victims of Cameron experienced amnesia and memory loss. Many went into an infantile state—sucking their thumbs and curling up in a fetal position. They needed to be spoon-fed and cried for their mothers. Some forgot how to walk and talk. Some became incontinent. Some suffered permanent brain damage
After supposedly “depatterning” people’s minds, Cameron then subjected his patients to tape-recorded messages. The totally unscientific premise here was that if patients “absorbed” what they heard over and over again, they would start acting according to the “message.” The tapes said things like: “You are a good mother and wife and people enjoy your company.”
With CIA money Cameron built an isolation chamber. This soundproof room was used to subject patients to extreme sensory deprivation. The room was dark. White noise was piped in. Dark goggles were put over people’s eyes. Their ears were plugged up. And cardboard tubing was put around their hands and arms to restrict any sense of touch. Cameron sometimes kept people like this for weeks. In one case he kept someone in this isolation chamber for 35 days.
Dr. Ewen Cameron’s horrible crimes were funded by the CIA until 1961.
Part 2: At the turn of the 20th Century—before the existence of any communist government—U.S. torture, including waterboarding, in the Philippines.
Revolution #137, July 27, 2008
Hook up with the revolution
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July 22, Tuesday, 7 pm
Salon Discussion on Away With All Gods: Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World by Bob Avakian.
July 23, Wednesday, 7:30 pm
Special one-night only benefit performance of the play:
“THE JESUS FACTOR”
“...exploring the nasty mesh of politics and religion in the U.S. today... fast and sharp ...the almost endless litany of crimes, lies, and subterfuge is sobering. I laughed a lot, but my grin was frozen stiff most of the show. Can’t believe it? There it is. Loud and clear.” — Ithaca Times
Please reserve— tickets are limited. $20. Call 212-691-3345 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
July 31, Thursday, 7:30 pm
Discussion and Expedition: "FREEGANISM for Beginners". Information session on the rescue of safe, usable food from the refuse of supermarkets. Followed by a trash tour. Refreshments in form of rescued food, come hungry.
August 3, Sunday, 3 pm
Reading and Discussion: Fr. Luis Barrios reading in Spanish from his new book: COQUIANDO: Meditaciones subversivas para un mundo major.
July 23, Wednesday, 7 pm, Discussion
“Re-envisioning Revolution and Communism: WHAT IS BOB AVAKIAN'S NEW SYNTHESIS?” Part IV: The New Synthesis: Political Implications—Dictatorship and Democracy
July 25, Friday, 7 pm
Film showing, The Great Debaters (see “Check It Out: The Great Debaters,” Revolution #121, February 24, 2008).
The Great Debaters takes place in the 1930s at Wiley College in Texas and is based on a true story. It is a time of Jim Crow and sharecropping. It is a time when Black people constantly faced the threat of being lynched or burned to death, at any moment and for nothing at all.
July 27, Sunday, noon
Secular Sunday conversation. “There is no such thing as unchanging, and unchangable, human nature.” Inspired by the book Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World by Bob Avakian.
312 West 8th Street 213-488-1303
July 24, Thursday, 7 pm
Join us to discuss the second installment of Raymond Lotta’s “Shifts and Faultlines in the World Economy and Great Power Rivalry—What Is Happening and What It Might Mean” currently appearing in Revolution. What does China’s rise mean for the shifts, faultlines and great power rivalry within the world imperialist system today? Join us to dig into all this and a whole lot more.
July 26, Sunday, 3 pm
Discussion of “Making Revolution, Emancipating Humanity” by Bob Avakian, featured in the new Revolution pamphlet: “Revolution and Communism, A Foundation and Strategic Orientation.” The vanguard party—why you need it, why it’s the most important form of organization for the masses, what it can and must do.
2425 Channing Way near Telegraph Ave
July 22, Tuesday, 7:00 pm
Join Raymond Lotta, author of Revolution series “Shifts and Faultlines in the World Economy and Great Power Rivalry: What is Happening and What It Might Mean,” for a discussion of trends in the world economy and some of their larger geopolitical implications.
July 29, Tuesday, 7:00 pm
Discussion of Bob Avakian’s book Away With All Gods: Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World,
Part Two: “Christianity, Judaism, and Islam — Rooted in the Past, Standing in the Way of the Future”
• Why is religious fundamentalism growing in today’s world?
• What does this have to do with capitalism’s fundamental contradiction?
August 5, Tuesday, 7:00 pm
Discussion of Bob Avakian’s book Away With All Gods: Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World,
Part Three: “Religion—a Heavy, Heavy Chain.”
• How is patriarchy and male supremacy at the core of Christianity (as well as Judaism and Islam)?
• Why is the Bible Belt the lynching belt?
Revolution Club meets Mondays at 6:30 pm
2626 South King Street
Mondays, 6:15 pm
Revolution Newspaper discussion group every Monday evening at 6:15 pm.
July 23, Wednesday, 7 pm
Talk by Dennis Loo, author of Impeach the President: The Case Against Bush and Cheney, member of the World Can’t Wait Steering Committee, and initiator of the Declare It Now campaign.
August 3, Sunday, 3 pm
Discussion of Part 4 of Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World by Bob Avakian.
2804 Mayfield Rd (at Coventry)
Cleveland Heights 216-932-2543
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 3-8 pm
July 23, Wednesday, 7 pm
Film showing: Persepolis
Read about the film at http://rwor.org/a/135/Persepolis_DVD-en.html
July 25-27, Fri, Sat, & Sunday
Visit our table at IngenuityFest! Downtown, Euclid Ave
July 30, Wednesday, 7 pm
Discussion of the Special Supplement to Revolution newspaper: “Shifts and Faultlines in the World Economy and Great Power Rivalry, Part 1” by Raymond Lotta. Read the article at http://rwor.org/a/136/lotta_faultlines_pt1-en.html
1833 Nagle Place
Revolution Books at Hidmo
We moved out of our current location and will be moving into our new, expanded location in the fall. This summer, come browse our book table and engage in discussions of revolutionary theory and Revolution newspaper at Hidmo (Eritrean restaurant and community space), 2000 South Jackson St. Revolution Books will be there on Sunday, July 27 (4-6 pm) and every Saturday in August (3-6 pm). Other events at other locations to be announced.
406 W.Willis (btwn Cass &2nd, south of Forest)
July 22, Tuesday, 6:30 pm
Talk on Bob Avakian’s New Synthesis, Part 2: A Philosophy To Understand and Change the World. Discussion series.
1158 Mass Ave, 2nd Floor, Cambridge
July 22, Tuesday, 6:30 pm
Topic to be announced.
4 Corners Market of the Earth
1087 Euclid Avenue in Little 5 Points
404-577-4656 & 770-861-3339
Open Wednesdays & Fridays 4 pm - 7 pm,
Saturdays 2 pm - 7 pm
July 26, Saturday 11-6
Look for our tent at the WRFG Birthday Party. Euclid and Austin near Little Five Points
August 2, Saturday
REVOLUTION BOOKS IS MOVING Into larger, quieter quarters next door. More space, more books, our own reading and meeting room! If you want to donate labor or money, give us a call or email.
August 3, Sunday, 6 pm
Continuing book discussion of Away With All Gods: Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World, by Bob Avakian.
August 6, Wednesday, 7 pm
Concluding discussion of our series on Bob Avakian’s “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity.”